Actor-singer-playwright Francois Clemmons, who is best known for playing Officer Clemmons on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, says Fred Rogers told him not to come out gay.

In his upcoming memoir, Officer Clemmons: A Memoir, Clemmons writes about the day Rogers called him into his office to discuss his sexuality.

“Franc, you have talents and gifts that set you apart and above the crowd,” Rogers said. “Someone has informed us that you were seen at the local gay bar downtown. Now, I want you to know, Franc, that if you’re gay, it doesn’t matter to me at all. Whatever you say and do is fine with me, but if you’re going to be on the show as an important member of the Neighborhood, you can’t be out as gay.”

Clemmons told People that he began to cry.

“I could have his friendship and fatherly love and relationship forever,” he said. “But I could have the job only if I stayed in the closet.”

“I was destroyed. The man who was killing me had also saved me. He was my executioner and deliverer.”

Rogers encouraged Clemmons to marry a woman. “People do make some compromises in life,” Rogers is quoted as saying.

Clemmons told People that he decided to marry his wife by the time he left Rogers' office. The marriage ended in divorce in 1974 and Clemmons began living openly as a gay man.

“Lord have mercy, yes, I forgive him,” he said of Rogers. “More than that, I understand. I relied on the fact that this was his dream. He had worked so hard for it. I knew Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was his whole life.”

Officer Clemmons: A Memoir arrives May 5.